By Kylie Blanchard
Recently, there was a short break from the "artic air mass" (that's what the weather man was calling it) that had camped itself over North Dakota, and the morning temperature reading was a balmy 18 degrees ABOVE zero. Compared to the sub-zero temperatures of the previous days, this was approaching a winter heat wave, and my mom and I decided to take this opportunity to enjoy a bit of our North Dakota winter and go cross-country skiing.
Now, I think anyone who has been in North Dakota during the winter will hear (or say), "the days are so short," "it's too cold," or "there's so much snow." But these very things also create many fun and unique activities and opportunities to get outside and enjoy the season. The cold freezes the state's lakes, rivers and streams for ice fishing and skating; the snow provides the needed ground cover for cross-country skiing, snow shoeing and sledding; and the short days provide a few more hours to enjoy some of these activities under the bright, winter moon and stars.
My mom and I arrived at Bismarck's Riverwood Golf Course shortly after the rental shop opened that morning. The trail had been freshly groomed and we grabbed our gear and got moving. I have been cross-country skiing on these trails since elementary school, but every time I make my way back into the large trees of the Missouri River Bottoms, I am struck by the peaceful and sheltered quiet. Whether day or night, the area is picturesque. Largely protected from the wind, the snow lies in soft mounds, instead of the wind swept peaks of the open prairies, and the trees, blanketed in a layer of white, make you forget you are in the middle of the city and not far from its busy Expressway. Sometimes the only sound you hear is the soft "whooshing" of your skis gliding across the snow.
We clipped along the familiar trail, but did stop for a short break about halfway through the loop to cool off (we were definitely dressed for the artic air mass instead of the winter heat wave). But we also took a moment to enjoy the scenery and snap a few pictures of our adventure.
When we finished the loop, we contemplated taking another, but decided to save it for another day, or night, this winter. And if more snow falls, we might even bring our snow shoes down and walk the trails. Our only complaint this time around was that we didn't slow down even more to enjoy the beautiful, winter day and scenery.
Cross-country skiing is a great reminder the winter months in North Dakota don't have to be all about freezing outside or hibernating inside until spring. North Dakota winters can hold as much beauty and activity as the state's warmer months, it might just require a few more layers. So grab some skis, skates or a sled and get out there, because in the words of many optimistic North Dakotans, "the snow will be gone before we know it!"